Comment: In so many ways, Kevin Doyle should be hailed as the role model for Irish soccer fans
In so many ways, Kevin Doyle should be hailed as the role model for the modern Irish soccer hero.
He may not have had the star quality of a Damien Duff or a Robbie Keane, but he was a standard bearer for what was possible in an increasingly competitive soccer landscape.
In an era when Ireland is not longer viewed as a first port of call for top English clubs to look for star talent, Doyle was a shining light of defiance whose presence confirmed that a path to the Premier League still exists for League of Ireland players at a moment when so few break that glass ceiling.
There were moments in his formative days at St Patrick’s Athletic that he doubted whether he had what it took to make it in the professional game, but the big break handed to him by Pat Dolan at Cork City transformed his career and turned a dream into reality for this affable Wexford boy.
Pat’s brother Eamon - who tragically passed away last year - opened the doors for Doyle and his Cork City team-mate Shane Long to make a move to Reading back in 2005 and alongside their fellow Irishman Stephen Hunt, the trio set about turning the Royals into a Premier League team.
From there, Reading’s Irish clan became established as top tier performers in the top division of English football, with their appearances on the biggest stages in the game a source of pride for all who had a role in putting them there.
My first meeting with Doyle in the lobby of Reading’s Madejski Stadium in the autumn of 2005 sparked a friendship that has held firm to this day, through his turbulent spell at Wolves and on to his final hurrah in America’s MLS with Colorado Rapids.
Now Doyler - as everyone who was fortunate enough to befriend him calls him - is bringing down the curtain on a career that saw him scored 104 goals in 371 games and add another 14 that in an Ireland senior career that he continued despite the long haul travel he was undertaking from America in the last couple of years.
His retirement from the game at the age of 34 may not be lauded outside of Ireland, but it deserves acclaim in this country as he has achieved great success in a period of the game when so many Irish players have fallen by the wayside.
Doyle represented club and country with pride despite a host of knock-backs on and off the pitch, with the charm he exuded throughout his career an endearing quality he has never lost.
Too many footballers lose touch with their soul when they make it big in English football, but Doyle never forgot his Wexford roots and the devotion to to his family and friends didn’t wane for a second despite the fame and fortune that came his way.
This was a homegrown hero who looked out of place in the often garish world of Premier League soccer and for that, Doyle should be lauded on the day he calls time on his career.
He was never blessed with magical talent and worked tirelessly for every goal he scored and every penny he earned, which is more than can be said for too many footballers whose wealth and celebrity turned their heads in a negative fashion.
To an old friend and a fine role model for Irish football, it is farewell for now....until we have that long-awaited pint down in Wexford.